asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he has considered details which have been sent to him of coal delivered to Mr. Whitmore of South Darenth, near Dartford, Kent; why Mr. Whitmore had to pay £1 12s. 11d. for six cwt. of best house coal on 17th May, whereas he paid £1 18s. 7d. for eight cwt. of the same coal on 16th February, 1950; and what is the reason for the difference of approximately 13s. 2d. per ton.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has written to the hon. Member and has explained that Mr. Whitmore did not buy the same coal on 16th February and 17th May. In May he bought coal of a better quality, the price of which was 7s. 6d. per ton more than that of the coal which he bought in February. In May, the price of the coal he bought was increased by the rise in railway rates and by the higher costs of local delivery.
In view of the fact that the cost was increased by the folly of Governmental action, will the right hon. Gentleman take steps to see it does not occur in the future?
If the customers buy different grades of coal they will pay different prices.
Has Mr. Whitmore any opportunity to decide what kind of coal he shall have?
He not only decided what kind of coal to buy, but he paid a different price.
Did he order a different kind of coal?
As to that I am not informed. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put down a Question.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that there are insufficient supplies of small anthracite fuel in the South-East area; and if he will take immediate steps to remedy this.
For some time now there has not been sufficient anthracite to meet the demand, which has been steadily increasing since the war. The shortage is general, and is not confined to any area. It is most desirable, in the national interest, to increase the exports of anthracite. I am afraid I cannot, therefore, hold out the hope of any early or substantial inmprovement in domestic supplies. Coke, however, is plentiful in most districts, and is a suitable alternative for nearly all cooking and heating stoves and boilers.
Is the Minister aware that small anthracite fuel is essential for the Aga and Esse types of cookers? Is he aware that the fuel overseer at Seven-oaks stated only a fortnight ago that no merchant in the entire area had any anthracite fuel? What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do about it?
The Aga cooker is designed for coke, and the manufacturers of the Esse cooker say that coke, if properly used, will do very well. Anthracite smalls—what are called beans, peas, and grains—are needed for automatic feed boilers, and they are kept for that purpose.
asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he will make a statement on the prospects of an increase in the domestic ration of coal for the forthcoming winter.
As the hon. Member is no doubt aware, there is no ration of coal which all consumers are entitled to receive. Maximum quantifies are fixed up to which householders may purchase coal, if supplies are available. As at present advised I expect that the quantities which householders may buy next winter, if supplies are available, will remain the same as in the last coal year; but, as the supplies will be increased, I hope that the actual deliveries will be more.
Does the Minister think that that answer can be fully co-ordinated with his recent public statement that householders could very soon expect a bigger ration of coal?
I did not use the word "ration," because rationing for coal was rejected years ago, and the present system is thought to be more desirable. I said the other day that there will be more coal for the domestic consumers. There will be at least one million tons more coal this year, and I hope there will be even more. That quantity, of course, will mean that deliveries to householders will be greater.